I’ve been reading lots of angry and divisive articles and posts about how so many are perpetuating the pandemic by cavalierly ignoring the simplest directives—suggestions, pleadings—from the scientific community to take masking, social distancing, and limiting travel seriously in order to come out the other side of this scourge.
Anger is not getting us far, or united or safer.
My mom died of COVID-19 on January 23rd. She’ll be interred on February 11th because there’s a backlog at the cemetery.
I feel this thing. Hard.
We know there have been over 450,000-plus deaths in this country since the start of the pandemic. We know it is killing more Americans than any other single cause, including heart disease and cancer. Here’s the problem: the population of the United States is around 328 million, which means that most of us don’t know someone who has died. Yet.
It’s easy to deny or ignore something that hasn’t touched us personally. God bless the Americans who believe we’re all in this together and only together will we beat this—without having had a spouse, parent, or loved one succumb. We need more of those people.
And this issue just doesn’t fit under the heading of different opinions that need to be respected equally. I pride myself on being as nonjudgmental as I am capable of being in most situations, but it’s not possible in this case to “live and let live.” People who do not pitch in and practice masking, social distancing, and restricted travel are not letting other people live. Hard stop.
In searching for a way to mourn my mother, while far away from her and far away from the people with whom I should be mourning and those I should be holding and who should be holding me, I had an idea.
I had an idea about how to react to people saying things and behaving in an insensitive, selfish way. I had an idea of how to make my own statement but stay out of the fruitless fighting. We can’t keep fighting and using this as just one more way in which to divide the country into opposing camps.
It used to be a custom to wear a black armband for 30 days to mourn the loss of a loved one. I am making a black mourning band for my arm with a white C-19 facing forward. I may wear it for more than 30 days. I may wear it until the last American dies, if I live that long.
My armband says, silently, I have buried someone who died from COVID-19. I’m mourning.
My armband says, silently, that I am one who paid the price for the cavalier attitude of other Americans. I’m mourning.
My armband says, silently, that I cannot listen to your hoax theories. I’m mourning.
My armband says, silently, please back off with assertions of your rights as an American to behave in a way that kills other Americans.
If 450,000 are dead, then at least four and half million are grieving. I would like to see four and a half million C-19 armbands.
I would like everyone to be quiet and think about that.
If you’d like to join me, make an armband with black fabric or ribbon, three inches wide and 18 inches long. Paint, embroider, or applique “C-19” in white letters. Attach to your sleeve with safety pins.
Make it your own. Don’t worry how simple or un-crafty it looks. Your grief will be honored and softened by the work of your hands. Trust me on this.